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Speaking Our Truths: The –Ism Youth Files podcast, Part 1

A special, five-episode series from Stage & Studio of interviews by and with 20 young artists and writers begins with the podcast "And That Happened."


Stage & Studio on ArtsWatch presents the special debut of the Speaking Our Truths: The –Ism Youth Files (IYF) podcast. This is a culmination of a two-year book and podcast project detailing the effects of the pandemic on youth mental health, led by Executive Producer Dmae Lo Roberts. This special five-part documentary series of half-hour episodes features interviews with 20 youth artists and writers who submitted work and were chosen to be a part of The -Ism Youth Files project.

The series is hosted by five of the youth writers and centers mental health and wellness for BIPOC youth and youth with disabilities. Their work (which includes essays, poems, graphic novels, and artwork) is now available as an anthology book available in paperback or ebook form on Amazon.  We listen to them describe the trials they have overcome, including a global pandemic, and how various factors have impacted their mental health and wellness and how they have overcome to flourish now.

The –Ism Youth files book and podcast project was produced by Dmae Lo Roberts with Amanda Anderson and Samson Syharath. Literary works editor was Sandra de Helen and the mental health consultant is Dr. Eleanor Gil-Kashiwabara. The episodes were mixed and mastered by Clark Salisbury.

All episodes feature music by Tomo Singh in Boston, MA. Podcast is appropriate for ages 14 and up. A content warning begins each episode for listeners. Podcasts will debut each Friday on Stage & Studio on ArtsWatch, September 15, 22, 29 and October 6 and 13.

Speaking Our Truths: The –ISM Youth Files Podcast Series

Sept. 15: Host Deandre Avant in the first episode weaves his personal story as a young person navigating COVID lockdowns and BLM protests in Boston during the pandemic. He tells us about other youth around the country and in India who were also greatly impacted by social isolation, learning online for the first time, and contending with their fears for family members and themselves when life had changed so drastically for the world. Hit especially hard were the BIPOC and disability communities. Hear insightful and honest stories about this world-changing event that affected mental wellness for themselves and their families

“I remember the day well, when he sent us a picture of him all decked out in his new gowns. Dressed all the way down in multiple layers of armored cloth of polyester. And all I could conjure was, ‘This can’t be real. Is it?’”– Journeya, featured writer in this episode

Stay tuned each week for a new podcast episode:

Sept. 22: Join host Cara Chen recites her winning poem home • sick • ness that she wrote in social isolation, leading us to a deep dive into the mental health challenges that our youth writers faced as the pandemic continued. Many youth turned to activism to enact social change on the local level as the world seemed on fire both literally and symbolically. 

Sept. 29: Host Jenell Theobald in Beaverton, Oregon discusses the challenges of disability during and after the pandemic as youth returned to school, and how that compounded issues in the pandemic. She speaks from personal experience and also brings in other youth including Veronica Salrin in Greenwood, Indiana and Niko Boscovic in Portland, Oregon who have similar challenges. Featured reading by Fermina Lopez.

Oct. 6: We join host Danica Leung as she features two strong young women, KyLynn Lucio from the Lower Sioux Reservation in Minnesota and Isabella Santana in Torrence, California, who share their intense personal stories of sexual violence, trauma and self-harm and how they have overcome hardship through therapy and family support.

Oct. 13: Our youngest writer, Mila Kashiwabara, hosts the final podcast episode. We bring together youth writers who speak honestly about the meaning of mental wellness, what gives them comfort, what they’ve learned from the pandemic milestone and how they are still working to achieve healthy lives.


For more information about the project, the published book or ebook or to download a free youth mental health toolkit, visit MediaRites.org.

“Taking care of our mental health is important for everyone – and everyone deserves help and support. Whether you or someone you know is struggling in some way, or you just want someone to talk to, this toolkit can offer a little help, support, and connection. You are not alone. We are all in this together. The first step is starting the conversation.”

Excerpt from The -Ism Youth Files Mental Health Toolkit (in collaboration with Oregon Children’s Theatre)

Dmae Roberts is a two-time Peabody winning radio producer, writer and theatre artist. Her work is often autobiographical and cross-cultural and informed by her biracial identity. Her Peabody award-winning documentary Mei Mei, a Daughter’s Song is a harrowing account of her mother’s childhood in Taiwan during WWII. She adapted this radio documentary into a film. She won a second Peabody-award for her eight-hour Crossing East documentary, the first Asian American history series on public radio. She received the Dr. Suzanne Ahn Civil Rights and Social Justice award from the Asian American Journalists Association and was selected as a United States Artists (USA) Fellow. Her stage plays and essays have been published in numerous publications. She published her memoir The Letting Go Trilogies: Stories of a Mixed-Race Family in 2016. As a theatre artist, she has won two Drammys, one for her acting and one for her play Picasso In The Back Seat which also won the Oregon Book Award. Her plays have been produced in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, NYC and Florida. Roberts is the executive producer of MediaRites, a nonprofit multicultural production organization and co-founder of Theatre Diaspora, an Asian American/Pacific Islander non-profit theatre that started as a project of MediaRites. She created the Crossing East Archive of more than 200 hours of broadcast-quality, pan-AAPI interviews and oral histories. For 23 years, Roberts volunteered to host and produce Stage & Studio live on KBOO radio. In 2009, she started the podcast on StagenStudio.com, which continues at ArtsWatch.


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